Insects are the most abundant animals on the planet and their meats are rich in protein, vitamins and low in fat. Their taste also seems to be pleasant. Why then do they not feature more often in our dishes?
With rare exceptions, all life is driven by a single power: solar power. Thanks to photosynthesis, it is captured by plants and, transferred to all animals along the food chain, assuming the thousand forms of different living beings.
Every year, solar energy produces a biomass - organic matter that we in the animal kingdom need to feed ourselves - equal to 104.9 * 1015 g, and thus every individual is in possession of an impressive and extremely diverse quantity of food. Yet most animals live in a state verging on starvation, and most importantly their diet is pretty dull. Carnivores eat almost exclusively meat and vegetarians love vegetables. And that’s not all: vegetarians often do not consume all plants, but rather just a few preferred ones. An example is the geranium butterfly that loves just this plant, shunning all others. If there is no geranium, the butterfly simply lets itself die. Omnivorous animals on the other hand are characterized by a varied diet and are quite rare and include rats, cockroaches, crows, pigs and a few others.
Our species is the undisputed champion of this type of food, with the ability to digest a large variety of food. Despite this almost unique ability, man is picky and does not eat certain potentially edible foods. I'm talking about insects that although abundant (more than 70% of the animal kingdom is an insect), rich in protein and low in fat are chosen by Man only sporadically, at least in the West.
Oriental and African dishes are renowned for insects that are often main ingredients. The Orientals love cicadas (especially females) coated with a batter and then fried in hot oil. While in Africa, you can eat a lot of bamboo moth larvae, preferably cooked on the grill. Africans love these larvae so much that they keep a box with them for making easy purchases at supermarkets. Even the ancient Romans loved insect cuisine and their dishes would consist of large wood-boring larvae (which fed on wood) cooked on hot stones and then topped with honey.
According to some experts, insects represent an excellent diet both from a dietetic and an organoleptic point of view. It appears that insects are very tasty. But why then are these little creatures not served on our plates? Certainly the fact that they are so difficult to breed did not help a widespread adoption: looking after a cow is definitely less expensive and more productive than the paltry amount obtainable from the farming of small six-legged animals. And to my mind, this is not an insignificant limiting factor, restricting insects from becoming a greater part of our diets. In the long run, given their undisputed nutritional benefits, these invertebrates may become a valuable compendium for our food intake.
Currently there is also another problem related to the edibility of insects: and it’s a legal one. As we know, the meat that we eat must be checked by a veterinarian; and veterinary experts specializing in the flesh of insects are quite rare, so finding legal insect meat is quite difficult.